Dozens of college students say the inspiration to give up part of their holiday break to help hurricane victims came not from television or newspapers but from their peers. Last month a handful of Virginia Tech students were in Mississippi surveying the devastation. Now they're back with about 70 friends.
Repairing her flood damaged home is work Grace Moses can't do because of her health. It's also work she can't afford to pay for. As Virginia Tech College students repaired Gulfport home, Moses says she was deeply touched.
"I'm so happy," said Moses. "I'm just happy because I'm a widow here by myself. You ask people to do things for you and they want to charge you $40 or $50 dollars, and I don't have."
These students gave up part of their holiday break to help people recover from Hurricane Katrina. For some of the students this is the second trip in the past month.
"They came down in Thanksgiving, but there were only five of them," said student Stefani Naden. "Now we have 67. It grew massively, and it feels good to know everyone I'm with feels the same way so I'm so excited about it."
Cenjiz Akinki was one of the students with the original group. He said after showing the Katrina pictures around campus, the response was overwhelming.
"It's taught me to have a little bit more faith in the human spirit."
Students say they could have just sent money but decided if they gave their time, people here would see how much they care.
"When people actually take time out of their lives to actually experience what they're living, it's a lot more personal," said Naden. "I think it means so much more to them which makes me feel better too."
In a few days Grace Moses will celebrate Christmas. Two days later will be her 73rd birthday but she says she's already received a precious gift which is the kindness of others.
"It's a blessing," said Moses. "Just a blessing."
The Virginia Tech students are working in Gulfport and Bay St. Louis. They say they plan to be in the area through Friday.